WASHINGTON—A trucking safety proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has truck fleets concerned about whether they can meet its provisions and dealers and retreaders concerned about losing their customer base. Published in the May 2 Federal Register, the proposed rule would require truckers to take at least 12 hours off during every 24-hour workshift. Currently, the law requires eight hours off for every 18.
Of the 12 hours off, drivers would have to have at least 10 consecutive hours off between shifts, under the rule. Also, they would be mandated to carry "black box" data recorders to ensure they took the required time off.
Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater extolled the proposal at an April 25 press conference, maintaining it was science-based and avoided a "one-size-fits-all" approach to regulating the trucking industry.
"This proposal would help assure that big-rig operators and other truck and bus drivers have sufficient rest so that they can drive safely," Mr. Slater said in a prepared statement. "It will help prevent fatigue-related crashes and thus save lives and prevent injuries."
Trucking industry representatives, however, were considerably less enthusiastic about the rule.
"The whole proposal would definitely affect our productivity," said Gene Vanderau, director of safety and member services with the Alabama Truckers Association. "We haven't come to a hard figure yet, but we estimate the productivity loss will be at least 25 percent if the proposal goes into effect as written now."
Retreaders shared their trucker customers' worries. Truck fleets will have to put about 30 percent more trucks on the road and hire 30 percent more drivers if the black box rule becomes law, said Barry McGriff, president of McGriff Treading Co. Inc. in Cullman, Ala.
"There aren't enough trained drivers available" to fill the slots the proposal would create, Mr. McGriff said. And while there would be more trucks on the road using more tires, it wouldn't benefit retreaders because the trucks would all be driving fewer miles.
All this comes at a time when "everybody's business (is) pretty soft" because of higher fuel costs, Mr. McGriff said. "A lot of drivers couldn't make the money they're used to, and would look for other employment," he said. "When this goes in, a lot of trucking companies will go out of business.. I'm afraid that, as an independent retreader, we would lose our customer base."
July 31 is the deadline the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has set for comments on the proposed rule. Also, the agency has scheduled public meetings on the document May 31 and June 1 in Washington, and plans further meetings in Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Kansas City and the Hartford, Conn./Springfield, Mass., area.